Taking care of your garden in the summer.

The high temperatures of these summer days don’t encourage one to spend too much time in the garden during the heat of the day but keep looking and there will always be some chore or other that needs to be looked into. Believe it or not, grapes on the vine don’t like too much sunshine even though they are are a crop that thrives in the Mediterranean climate. An old fashioned gardening book suggests that the bunches should be allowed the shade from their own leaves so that they don’t get sun burnt.

On the other hand, some of the long trailing vines that have no bunches of fruit on them can be cut back to allow all the goodness produced by the plant to go up through the fruit bearing branches. I assume this can only be done in a garden as opposed to the miles of grapevine in the commercial vineyards. Keep a watch out now for mildew that easily attacks the vine, the humidity of the summer temperatures attracts the white powdery mildew.

Copper sulphate can be purchased from the co-op or farmers markets to sprinkle over the vine and hopefully act as a deterrent.

Unfortunately the summer brings all sorts of undesirables into our gardens like the little grey butterfly that continues to attack the Geraniums by laying their eggs in the leaf joints where the larvae burrow into the stem of the Geranium and frequently the plant dies back from that point. There are pesticides available both already in spray bottles or in small vials of concentrated pesticide that has to be diluted with water before applying to the plant, hopefully to discourage the butterfly. Greenfly is also a pest as is scale that encourages sooty mould especially on Bay trees. When treating one’s plants for any type of pest control it is always recommended that the pesticides be applied in the cool of the day, never in full sunshine. Oh dear it seems to be never ending but that is what gardening is all about.

From never needing to mow the lawn up until the grass begins to grow in May or June we now find it needs cutting nearly every week, also frequent watering and occasional feeding with special fertilizer. Grass cuttings are wonderful for the compost heap, they will need to be turned over from time to time and even watered a little if the heap seems to dry out but along with kitchen waste it is well worth the effort because the lovely dark compost that comes from all the waste will top up all those flower pots when needed and help as a mulch on the flower beds. Another use for some of the grass cuttings is to sprinkle the freshly cut grass around shrubs and the like. This helps maintain some moisture in the soil and can deter the weeds.

Keep deadheading all the flower heads as they die back, it helps the plant to look tidy but best of all will encourage new growth and more flowers. The growing season in this climate seems so much longer with some plant or other continually surprising us by coming into bloom and making new growth with all the different shades of green as well.

Many of the culinary herbs will be coming into flower, keep cutting the flower heads off if you want to encourage more leaves to grow ready for the kitchen. Some like Mint , Sage, Fennel , Parsley and the like just go on and on year after year if you look after them. Sweet Basil is probably one of the more delicate ones and really does only last one season but you can keep it going all through one season by cutting it right back every few weeks and certainly not letting flower heads form at all.

A pot of small Basil plants costing less than a euro in some supermarkets will thrive if transplanted into a larger pot , well watered and stood in full sunshine to provide that lovely fragrance and taste on tomatoes or added to olive oil and pine nuts to make pesto for pasta dishes. Cut it back to half way down its stems and you will see just how quickly it grows back up again with lots of new leaf ready for the kitchen. Sweet Basil is said to help be a deterrent against mosquitos as well so be sure to place the plants near open windows and supposedly the mosquitos won’t get into the house, well ....so they say!